‘Do you want to share this memory?’ Facebook asked. Did I? Not sure, I flicked through the posts and their images. Only you can see these, it reminded me. A glint of sadness passed by as I thought of Turkey and India.
No holiday this year.
This morning, I read a piece about travel. It nailed why we choose to visit places that may challenge us, travelling through the dark night of our souls, to discover something. Usually, travel brings with it self-realisation, dressed in traditional clothes and spoken in foreign tongues.
Sometimes the impact of our learning takes months to penetrate our consciousness. Often it can be emotionally disorienting, taking its time to unravel, showing its real colours timidly, as we grow. We never thought it would be like this.
For me, India unearthed the unexpected time after time.
Rising early our tour group gathered. We had intended to travel by tuk-tuk today but in August, the monsoon rains belted down, soaking everything, filling massive unfathomable potholes in the street. Our guide suggested we travel by local bus instead.
At the bus station, people huddled under awnings, trying to stay dry. Shoulder to shoulder packs on our backs we waited as our guide jousted with many others trying to buy tickets. It took a while. Successful, we stowed our luggage and boarded. The bus old, previously blue, had holes in the floor. I imagined the water squirting in. The seats positioned at varying angles; no longer adjusted.Windows
Windows sweated and ran. When opened, the rain flew in.
After us, Indian families boarded the bus sitting cross-legged in luggage compartments above our heads. The isle filled. At my feet sat a family; husband, wife and two young children. The younger boy cried and refused to be comforted. His mother wore a veil typical of Rajasthan and looked up at me shyly from time to time. The journey wore on, the bleating of air-horns, slashing of puddles and muted conversations.
I indicated that the boy could sit on my knee. He looked at me terrified, his father sternly and his mother quizzically. As a seated passenger I felt incredibly guilty. No manner of rationalisation removed the sour taste of injustice from my mouth. Nothing could be done and the boy continued to cry. Hours passed his protests blended into the steamy cacophony of the journey.
His mother and I watched each other. Without saying anything our hearts met and we began to feel more comfortable in each others company. I understood her distrust, her desire to keep her child safe. I knew her frustration at her inability to console her son. And I hoped she understood my distaste at travelling in a seat while she sat at my feet.
The bus stopped every two hours, people getting on and off but my family stayed with me until the second last stop. Getting off finally she looked directly at me and smiled before readjusting her red veil. Walking away, I knew I would never forget them and the powerful lesson they brought to me that day.